Dangerous Levels Of Toxic Heavy Metals In Baby Food, Congressional Report Finds

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Andrew Jose Contributor
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Several baby products made by the country’s largest baby food manufacturers contain harmful amounts of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, that can harm infant neurological development, according to a congressional report released Thursday. 

After receiving reports claiming high toxic heavy metal levels in baby foods, the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy requested Nov. 6, 2019, seven of the largest baby food producers in the United States to give congressional investigators internal documents and test results, according to the report(RELATED: FDA Recalls Ice Cream That May Contain Metal Shards)

Only four companies — Nurture, which sells Happy Family Organics, Beech-Nut, Hain, and Gerber, a unit of Nestle — complied with the Subcommittee’s request, while the other three — Walmart, Campbell, and Sprout Organic Foods — refused to cooperate with the investigation. This raised some concerns that “their lack of cooperation might be obscuring the presence of even higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby food products than their competitors’ products,” the report said. 

Following an investigation of products made by the cooperative businesses, investigators discovered that their products are tainted with concerning levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. According to received documents, the businesses’ internal company standards permit dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals in their products. The manufacturers have often crossed those levels in the products they sold, the report found.

The tested baby foods and their ingredients eclipse “higher-than-recommended” levels for the toxic heavy metals, containing up to 91 times the recommended arsenic level, up to 177 times the recommended lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level and up to 5 times the mercury level, the investigators stated.

“In 100% of the Hain baby foods tested, inorganic arsenic levels were higher in the finished baby food than the company estimated they would be based on individual ingredient testing,” the report said. 

Exposure to the substances mentioned above “causes permanent decreases in IQ, diminished future economic productivity, and increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior in children,” and endangers “infant neurological development and long-term brain function,” according to the report. 

Furthermore, the investigation uncovered that only one of the four businesses checked for mercury in their products, and the one that did — Nurture — sold finished baby food products containing as much as ten ppb mercury. Beech-Nut and Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) do not test for mercury in baby food, whereas Gerber rarely tests for mercury in its products, the report stated.

“To this day, baby foods containing toxic heavy metals bear no label or warning to parents. Manufacturers are free to test only ingredients, or, for the vast majority of baby foods, to conduct no testing at all,” the Subcommittee stated. 

Democrat Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi chairing the panel that released the report, said that “these manufacturers knowingly sell baby food containing high levels of toxic heavy metals … It’s time that we develop much better standards for the sake of future generations.”

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman said that the agency was reviewing the report, according to Reuters. Some of the companies the report mentioned had issued statements in response to the report, Reuters reported.

Walmart denied the Subcommittee’s accusation of non-cooperation, saying that it submitted information to the committee on Feb. 2020 but never received any subsequent inquiries.

Happy Family Organics said it was “disappointed at the many inaccuracies, select data usage and tone bias in this report. We can say with the utmost confidence that all Happy Family Organics products are safe for babies and toddlers to enjoy.”

Hain Celestial alleged that the “report examined outdated data and does not reflect our current practices” and said it “inaccurately characterized a meeting with the FDA.”

A Gerber representative said the substances in question occur naturally in the soil and water in which crops are grown and added it takes multiple steps “to minimize their presence.”

Beech-Nut Nutrition said it was reviewing the report and is working with other companies “on science-based standards that food suppliers can implement across our industry,” according to further reporting from Reuters.